Jay-Z marked his retirement with the critically lauded Black Album, but he may be the most active retiree this side of Florida. After re-collaborating with R. Kelly on a disappointing effort aptly titled Unfinished Business, Jigga also advertised that a second joint project would be released. That album, Collision Course, is a blend of some of Linkin Park and Jay-Z’s most successful tracks into an odd concoction that somehow works.

Music Reviews

The album begins with the screaming guitar rock of Linkin Park grating behind the hip-hop rhythms and melodic lyrics of Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and LP’s “Lying From You.” The track is a tight synthesis of both originals, and the result is energetic and original. Produced by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, the album hits its stride when the energy of electric rock meets Jay-Z’s lyrics — the predominant theme of the collaboration.

At times, the album comes across as merely Jay-Z’s rhymes over a Linkin Park song. “Big Pimpin’/Papercut” is identical to the original “Big Pimpin’ ” with no variation of the original lyric or chorus, as Jigga reassures everyone that he’s a “pimp in every sense of the word.” This sort of exactness does not hinder Linkin Park, though, as every track stretches their lyrics onto a format well beyond what they were intended. Songs are sped up and slowed down, each forcing a different delivery from Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda — a challenge they are up for in each event. This includes Shinoda’s singing attempt at singing the first verse of “99 Problems.” Delivering Jay-Z’s lyrics without the trademark Jigga slur, Shinoda manages to make the song his own all. At the same time, Jay displays mastery when he pushes himself, laying down an amazing lyrical delivery during “Jigga What/Faint” as the background delivers a double-time tempo for him to sing against.

Though Collision Course is a collaborative effort, it is obvious that Jay-Z is the focus. Linkin Park often fall into a background vocal to Jigga or jump in for the second half of the song, playing second fiddle to one of rap’s living legends. This also seems to be the case on the accompanying DVD, which features an MTV performance with all of the tracks from the collaboration. Visually, Bennington and Shinoda seem to fade into the background while Jay-Z takes center stage.

With their seven-track release, Jay-Z and Linkin Park don’t seem to take many chances, though it is an experiment all the same. While some songs like “Izzo/In the End” come off as almost boring, the up-tempo tracks from Collision Course more than make up for it. Though “Numb/Encore” has been the featured release from the album, there are numerous tracks from the record that can be lauded for their quality. With Collision Course, Shinoda was able to make an experimental release that featured the best of Jay-Z with a rock accompaniment worthy of a post-retirement release.

 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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